Hostages and Their Captors

Friends and Lovers

by Brian Michael Jenkins


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Considers the question of why many hostages kidnapped by guerrillas and terrorists develop amiable relations and sometimes affection for the captors who may kill them. Sometimes they even try to protect the kidnappers. While some elements of brainwashing are inherent in the situation--fear, fatigue, sensory deprivation, disorientation in time and space--more is involved. In an attempt to establish good relations, the hostage will ask the captors about their lives and their goals, and perhaps tell about himself. Closeted for days or hours with a few captors under such circumstances, it is difficult not to take on at least some of their viewpoints. Before the captors' absolute power of life and death, the hostage is helpless, virtually an infant. Under such circumstances, the hostage unconsciously begins to assimilate the captors' attitudes and imitate their actions. (A similar version appeared in the New York Times, October 3, 1975.)

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